Thursday, December 27, 2007

are you afraid of failure?

most of us dont venture out to become entrepreneurs because we are afraid of failure. being afraid has two implications :- one is the social stigma and the other is that once we fail as an entrepreneur, we become 'unemployable'

social stigma is a fact, one particularly hates the sympathetic looks, the seemingly empathising noises, not just with the entrepreneur but with his family members as well. this is always hard to take. especially after being in a good position in a good well-known organization. like everything else, one has to learn to live with it, develop what we call a 'rhino hide'.

the 'unemployabilty' factor is rubbish. it is a figment of imagination. years ago i was hiring a profit centre head for one of our biz units in the middle east and i had pretty much zeroed in on a gentlemen who had quit an MNC to become an entrepreneur and after struggling to get his company off the ground for nearly three years, had wound it up and was looking for a job.

my boss was aghast that i had short-listed a failed entrepreneur for such a key position and i said to him that my reasoning for short-listing him was that as an entrepreneur you learn in six months what as an employee you would take decades to learn. and that condensation in the gestation period of learning was going to be invaluable for us and therefore we should hire him. my faith in him, needless to say was vindicated.

believe you me, more and more people are beginning to see value in this truism that a failed entrepreneur makes for a highly successful employee!!

so stop worrying about failure, go out there, pick your idea and get the biz rolling.

Monday, December 24, 2007

who becomes an entrepreneur

contrary to public perception, it is not only the passionate who become entrepreneurs. corporate history is replete with examples of people who had nary a thought about becoming entrepreneurs, yet went on to become highly successful ones.

the ones who are most likely to become entrepreneurs are those who come from biz families and grow up with the conditioning that they have to become one. it is highly unlikely that aditya birla's son kumaramangalam birla would have been anything but an entrepreneur even if his father had not encountered untimely death.

the ones who stumble upon an incredible idea go on to become entrepreneurs, even if reluctant ones. larry page and sergei brin were techies and even if they did not envision buliding a great company around google, the idea carried its own path-breaking momentum, so much so they went on to become hugely successful entrepreneurs.

sometimes opportunity has a way of throwing itself at you and making you an entrepreneur even if there is hardly anything in your DNA or your background to suspect an entrepreneurial streak in you. anita roddick built body shop into the huge cosmetics chain that it eventually became because she took the opportunity that came her way seriously.

and of course, sometimes one becomes an entrepreneur when no job comes by. you are pink-slipped, you are not getting any younger and jobs are hard to come by and out of desperation you become an entrepreneur. initially you may tell yourself that you will do something on your own till such time you find the right job; but if none comes by, there always comes a point when you have to face it and pay more attention to the biz you have started so that you get a living out of it.

whatever your reason for becoming an entrepreneur may be, it cannot be a half-baked attempt. you have to give yourself 100 % to it, if you lack commitment, that will show and cascade through the entire fabric of the organization. and no organization, however rock solid the idea is that it is built on, can survive that kind of monumental neglect.

Friday, December 21, 2007

what factors influence in becoming an entrepreneur

in a way, this is the age-old question whether entrepreneurs are born or can be made.

and my answer is (which is vindicated by a cross-section of entrepreneurs of both hues) that some are born, many others are made.

what makes entrepreneurs? some of the factors that influence are culture, family background, government policy, infrastructure, teachers and mentors, peer groups and resources.

some cultures are pro-biz and some are not; those that are, are typically communities which have traditionally engaged in businesses and frown upon their members working for someone as an employee. typically these are family-owned and family-run biz and they tend to hire people from within their family network.

cultures which are not pro-biz typically tend to be less risk-tolerant and therefore encourage members to obtain secure jobs in sectors that are perceived by them as safe and non-risk. the spirit of entrepreneurship in such communities is stifled right from early childhood.

if you are born in a family of businessmen, chances are they will foster your spirit of entrepeneurship as opposed to those families where men have always been 'in jobs'.

sunil mittal as an entrepreneur as we know him today would not have been possible but for the fact that there was a change in government policy with respect to the telecom industry. privatising telecom not only created a superbrand such as airtel but an entrepreneur such as sunil mittal.

if you look at the mutual funds industry today, most of the equities that are performing well are linked to infrastructure. india shining has thrown up not just phenomenal need for infrastructural development but also opportunities for many to become entrepreneurs.

in my experience, the biggest influencers are mentors/peers. typically in a management school, a group comes under the missionary zeal of a teacher who exhorts them to become entrepreneurs and even after knowing that the opportunity cost is very high, some of them do veer towards entrepreneurship, even social entrepreneurship. i know a number of students who have given up cushy jobs to work in social technology space, micro-credit, etc

in the good old days of license raj in india, there was absolutely no incentive to become an entrepreneur because the ambient environment was most unconducive for the spirit of entrepreneurship. the political, economic and social framework actively discouraged freedom of enterprise. non-availablity of capital was the biggest show-stopper, for instance.

not any more, as you see around the world, trade barriers are collapsing, and economies have realised that the surest and fastest way to grow is by encouraging entreprenurship.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

when should one become an entrepreneur?

ashok, this one is for you! there is no such thing as a right age or right time to become an entrepreneur. i have heard from students that the best time is when you finish college. the logic here is that you are young, you do not have familial responsibilities, and you can direct all your energies to setting up and growing the biz.

it is good logic and i know many entrepreneurs who have been successful when they ventured on their own, under thirty.

the downside of this argument is that you have zero corporate experience and all your learning will come out of the mistakes you are bound to make in your company. some of these mistakes may prove to be too costly, or may slow down the traction of your business or may even dishearten you to such an extent that you may want to exit it.

the other argument is: work in good organizations for 5-8 years, gain invaluable experience, understand the way organizations work, markets behave, monies move, teams evolve, build your network, save some money and then become an entrepreneur.

good logic again, but the only downside is that you have become too calsified in your comfort zone, in your trappings of executive earnings and perks, in your life-style and in this whole persona that you have created of yourself as a successful, high-flying executive in an MNC. Giving up on all that, and starting from scratch, more often than not, becomes the show-stopper.

so my recommendation is dont worry about right age or right time, the moment an idea grabs your imagination enough for you to think that you can build a biz around it, quit and start. you could be 25, you could be fifty. what matters is the strength of your idea and the intensity of your passion to make it work.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

let's start with basics

the word 'entrepreneur' has a french origin and means 'go between'. in the early days, ie 16th century, the entrepreneur was seen as someone who would mediate between an inventor or ideator on the one hand and putting all the resources together on the other to commercialise a product.

since marco polo's time, the abilty to take risks has always been an integral part of entrepreneurship. many of us do not become entrepreneurs because we are risk-averse and seek compromise in our comfort zones.

it is not just the economic aspect of risk that is daunting; not just that there may be no pay check regularly at the end of the month as it happens when you are an employee. it is also the psychological aspect. even if you are a management trainee in a large MNC, you hand out your visiting card very proudly because the brand equity of the MNC is extended to you as well. when you become an entrepreneur, your new organization has no such brand equity and somehow that makes you feel less of a person.

one may overcome the fear of no pay check but very few are able to overcome the loss of brand equity. it calls for a lot of commitment and faith to be able to deal with this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Startups' services

who is an entrepreneur

without any jargons, an entrepreneur is one who starts his own biz. so what does one need to start one's own biz?

firstly one needs an idea. what is the biz about? is it a product/service, both, new concept, franchise, manufacturing, assembling, what?

next, one needs to identify who the customer is, who will buy your product. then one needs to find out whether you are the first entrant in the market or there are other players.

then one needs to estimate what are the resources required. the resources are technology, people, money and raw material.

once the resources required are identified, one has to identify how to garner these resources.

then a biz plan has to be put together, incorporating all these aspects . very simplistically, the person who does all this in order to start a biz is an entrepreneur.

Monday, December 17, 2007

lets start a fraternity of entrepreneurs

i do believe what india needs today is more and more of us leaving our comfort zones behind and venturing into territories where we will not only discover good things about ourselves that we never knew we possessed; equally bad things about us which we wont even admit to ourselves in front of the mirror. becoming an entrepreneur is embarking on a journey of knowing who you really are. cheers


i teach entrepreneurship at premier biz schools both in india and US. and yes before you raise an eyebrow, entrepreneurship can be taught!!

i also handhold companies, particularly start-ups which require management inputs and mentoring. management inputs could be in terms of biz strategy, market strategy, or even simply how to incorporate a company.

so you guys out there who are already entrpreneurs and could use some mentoring and who want to become entrepreneurs but need to talk it through with someone, you know where to come knocking!